ATHENS – This series of depth chart previews comes to an end today, and with special teams, it’s a doozy. We’ll be breaking down the two-deep for each spot on all six special teams units, including long snapper, gunner, third man over on kickoff, nose tackle on extra point block …
Or maybe just highlight the three most visible positions. That okay?
Sure it is, because two of them offer a lot of intrigue, for separate reasons. And both jobs look wide open. So let’s get to it:
- Returning starter: None.
- Top candidates: Rodrigo Blankenship, R-Fr. (walk-on) and William Ham, Soph. (walk-on).
- The rest: Mitchell Wasson, Fr. (walk-on); Tanner Stumpe, Soph. (walk-on); Mitchell Rostowsky, Fr. (walk-on); Thomas Pritchard, Sr. (walk-on).
- The skinny: Whoever wins the job, Georgia will have a walk-on as its main kicker for the first time since Brandon Coutu. But it worked out with him and Billy Bennett. Plus, walk-on in these cases is a bit of a misnomer, as Blankenship, Ham and Wasson were all recruited, they’re just not going to be on scholarship. (For now.) This looks to be a two-man competition this preseason between Blankenship and Ham, who during the spring each appeared to make Kirby Smart feel a bit better about whoever won the job. Blankenship had the better G-Day, but much like the quarterback competition, it’s not only about G-Day, and will carry into August.
- Prediction: Blankenship is the winner, but enters the season on a short leash. The coaches may even let Ham (or whoever doesn’t win the job) get in some extra points or field goal tries to have them ready just in case. And don’t rule out the competition carrying into the season – but not that long, because travel roster concerns come into play, meaning you want to carry as few specialists as possible.
- Returning starter: Brice Ramsey, Jr.
- Top competition: Marshall Long, Fr.; Will Cowart, Soph. (walk-on).
- The rest: Thomas Pritchard, Sr. (walk-on).
- The skinny: Ramsey would be the runaway favorite here, based on his kicking the tail end of last year (41.9 yard average on 25 punts) if not for the whole quarterback thing, and the whole Marshall Long thing. And while it still figures to be one of those two guys winning the job, there could still be a curveball: Cowart will enter the fray if Ramsey and Long aren’t consistent enough. Of course the biggest factor here may be where Ramsey is in the quarterback competition. If he is right in the middle of it, does that take him out of the punting equation or not? But if Ramsey falls out of the QB race, does he concentrate on punting enough that the job is his? Ramsey, Long and Cowart all have ability, from what we hear, it’s going to come down to who is the most consistent.
- Prediction: Ramsey and Long begin the season splitting the duties. Maybe Ramsey is the punter when Georgia is punting in its own territory, and Long is the short man. Then the coaches try to sort it out from there.
- Returning starters: Isaiah McKenzie, Jr.; Reggie Davis, Sr.
- Top competition: Dominick Sanders, Jr.; Terry Godwin, Soph.; Tyler Simmons, Fr.; Mecole Hardman, Fr.
- The rest: Anybody fast.
- The skinny: McKenzie is the big name here, but Davis is underrated. He had a 70-yard TD return last year, and averaged a decent 23.2 yards on kickoffs last year. (More than twice of McKenzie’s average of 10.5.) Davis is also very fast: Remember the 99-yard touchdown catch his freshman year? All that said, McKenzie is still the most dynamic threat, the only question is his health and ball-control. He’s had some fumbles, a problem that’s overlooked because his teammates have usually jumped on them. That would seem to be the only reason McKenzie isn’t out there every time for a return. Georgia didn’t do much in the return game during spring practice, but will ratchet that up in the preseason, so we’ll have a chance to ask Smart his philosophy on using McKenzie, whether it’ll be punt and kickoff, or if they work in other people, etc.
- Prediction: Assuming he stays healthy, McKenzie finishes the season with two-thirds of Georgia’s punt and kick returns. Most of the rest go to Davis.
Jacob Eason opens the season as the holder on place kicks. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t win the quarterback job too. He’s just also really goood at holding.
The rest of the series: